Dispatches from an Antarctic co-op: When we don’t work
My name is Jake Grondin. I’m a rising junior in the College of Science, majoring in Biology, with minors in Physics and Math. I am one of two co-ops currently residing at Palmer Station, Antarctica working in Professor Bill Detrich’s lab. In this blog I am sharing my experiences on this incredible continent, and I hope you will continue to read along.
This co-op is one of the reasons I came to Northeastern, and I’ll start by saying it is most definitely not for everyone. As a research assistant, I work in the labs and stay on station through the Antarctic winter. Even though I’ve only been here for a short time, Palmer Station has become a very special place to me, and I am thrilled to be able to share this continent with the rest of the University and beyond.
If you haven’t already, read Jake’s previous posts here:
If you read my last post, you may have learned that the work week here far exceeds the typical 40 hours, however we (almost) always have our nights free and maybe a half a weekend or something. This leaves hours a day to fill, and my biggest concern before coming here was what exactly we were to do after work. After all, the sun sets before the work day comes to a close, and so outdoor activities are usually a bit limited. So what exactly do we do? Well, I’m here to tell you about how I’ve never actually been bored on this station:
A lot of people, like me, worry about intimidation levels at the gym. Luckily, with only 20 people on station, that’s usually never an issue. If you don’t have the gym to ourselves, you really only have one other person in there with us. It is also fitted with just about everything anyone needs. Cardio equipment, free weights, machines, and a punching bag. It’s even got the entertainment system hooked up to our iTunes library with over 500 movies and 50 TV series. Some people head to the gym literally just to watch an episode of their shows alone when people are using the lounge.
In the galley of BioLab sits a whiteboard, filled with a slot for every day of the week. Here, people schedule their movies, TV shows, band practice, and whatever else they have going on that week where they’d like some company. Some slots are predetermined (Sunday nights are usually filled with some TV show we all follow, Tuesdays are science talks, etc.), while others have occurrences that occur whenever the writer wants them to. Most of us usually have some other regularly scheduled watching times of a series or two with small groups throughout the day / week.
Yes you read that right, we have both a hot tub AND a sauna. It’s quite a luxury to have, and something we all heavily value on station. We usually have one or two people who volunteer to help with the upkeep on the hot tub, and the sauna is usually well maintained by those who use it themselves.
The bar is the social hub of station. Usually, someone is there every night for either a friendly chat, board game, or a round of darts, pool, or ping-pong. There’s a popcorn machine for the lounge, which is connected via a small sliding door, and a disco ball and surround sound to fit whatever is happening on station that night. The bar has plenty of glasses and also no bartender. Everything is supplied from the station store, and is individually owned. And to answer a common question, the drinking age on all US-owned bases is 21.
The top of the bar has a small viewing deck if anyone wanted to get a nice range of view of the station, skyline, or night sky. One of my favorite places to go, if you can handle the cold, is the observatory at night. The station provides only a small amount of light pollution, so the night sky is usually quite visible, and looks completely different from the sky of Boston.
Outdoor activities are definitely still possible, don’t get me wrong! Catch those in a later post! I’ll also be sharing some views of the lab space and aquarium, so my station tour is not quite done yet!